Give Refugees a Chance (GRACE)

Katiuska Valera arrived in Cuenca six months ago. She decided to leave Venezuela after Kelbert, her three-year-old son, almost died due to a stomach bacteria, and she couldn’t find any medicine for him in her own country. Photo by Mark Fox.

From the beginning, Saxon Gotfried ran Give Refugees a Chance (GRACE) as a volunteer-run medical center for refugees. All this was done from a tiny room sitting above one of the entrances to the Iglesia San Francisco (home of the Posada San Francisco and former home of Snow Angels in Ecuador. For GRACE, the only goal at the time was to help people (mostly refugees from Venezuela and Columbia) found themselves without the money or knowledge to met their family’s medical health needs. GRACE functions as a legal, 501c-3 non-profit charity initially based out of Portland, Oregon, and also acts as an Ecuadorian certified Foundation here in Cuenca.

Starting in September 2020, Snow Angels in Ecuador made the decision to work with GRACE in an effort to improve the reach of our outreach program. Initially focused on improving people’s days by ensuring that more than 80 lunches on average were going out 5-days a week (that’s almost 40,000 lunches that Snow Angels in Ecuador handed delivered to some of out communities most vulnerable people for the last 2-years). While we continue our efforts to feed an even greater number of people in moths to come; with the combined efforts from our Parque Calderon and the Centro Diuerno Don Bosco projects, and well as with our financial support of foundations like Fundacion NUR and GRACE, we hope to not only better the lives of those we touch, we plan on improving the quality of their life in the long term.

GRACE has been steadily growing by leaps and bounds over the last two years, expanding from only a handful of essential medical-related services they offered free of charge to their clients. They now have over a dozen similar programs, and in our boof have gone the extra mile to improve the lives of the clients that help every day.

Over the last several years, GRACE has been treating and advising a growing number of patients who have run out of places to seek help or need assistance in finding someone who can get them connected to the healthcare system here in Ecuador. Exceeding this, they have become a foundation that predominantly focuses on the idea of “refugees-helping-refugees.” Still, volunteers include Ecuadorians and expats from all over the world. It offers any patient whose poor enough to qualify for a dozen-plus program that it provides to its clients. In their own words:

A Venezuelan family meeting with one of two doctors, Dr. Rafael Escalante, on staff at GRACE. Also assisting him is GRACE’s staff nurse. Doming Pina. Photo by Bartley D’Alfonso.

“GRACE exists to help refugees get on their feet. To do this, we have tailored our help to the individual needs of each refugee or family. Along with medical and legal services, we have helped with school uniforms, bringing loved ones out of Venezuela, providing household items, food, clothing, and getting small family businesses started. We provide these services on a case by case basis. Our headquarters are in Cuenca, Ecuador.”

Another GRACE doctor and nurse taking the vitals of a new patient.

GRACE helps connect refugees to available Ecuadorian health services available to the very poor and refugees alike. “The health system here would look after them, but refugees do not have the information about it, and they are frightened of deportation,” said Dr. Oswaldo Landa, a Venezuelan physician who volunteers at the center. “The people who come here feel they can trust us.”

Medical, Mental, Dental & Pediatric Outreach

The new GRACE location is at Guillermo Medina and Mariscal Lamar — conveniently located right-off of the Tranvia line.

Through our ongoing commitment to building on the successes of our previous works, namely our food outreach program in collaboration with Hearts for Gold and Cuenca Soup Kitchen, Snow Angels in Ecuador has become a believer in the need for foundations like GRACE for the benefit of ours and our partner’s clents. In doing so, Snow Angels is able to offer the following services to our clients on a per needs basis:

Services Provided by GRACE for Snow Angels in Ecuador:

  1. General Medical consultation with follow-up, referrals, treatment, and free medications.
  2. Mental Health consultation with follow-up, referrals, treatment, and free medications.
  3. Pediatric Consultation with follow-up, referrals, treatment, and free medications.
  4. Dental Consultation and Treatment.

Based on the success of the pilot program, which is to take place between September of 2020 through February of 2021, we hope we can roll out this service for the remainder of the year. Currently, we are supporting by our clients, as well as clients of Foundacion NUR with GRACE services.

Related Projects

Fundación NUR

Fundación NUR volunteers putting together school supplies for their young clients.

Fundación NÚR’s mission is to work with young children and adolescents and includes their families — single young mothers, young adults, and at risk adults. NÚR works tirelessly to equip these units with the necessary tools to develop individual and social capacities that allow them to take full responsibility for their lives and environment. Through comprehensive training activities, NÚR strives to improve their living conditions to develop their full potential, take an ongoing role in their lives, be the protagonists and dedicated agents of their change, and contribute responsibly to improving their community and society. Their vision is to contribute to our society’s improvement by helping and accompanying people in vulnerable and elusive situations to improve their lives, environment, and community.

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